In order to ensure food and nutrition security amid COVID-19 Pandemic, the Department of Agriculture (DoA), Ministry of Agriculture & Forests (MoAF), Bhutan has started the urban and peri urban agriculture program in the country. The main objectives of the program are to boost production and supply of vegetables to urban markets and provide alternative employment and income generating venture to laid-off employees.
To begin with the program, a total of 6.58 acres of land at Babena, Thimphu was launched as “Urban Agriculture Garden” on 6th May 2020 which was graced by the Director General of Tourism Council of Bhutan, Chief Representative of JICA and Director of the Department of Agriculture. The urban and peri-urban agriculture program is funded by RGOB and FAO Bhutan.
The 6.58 acres of land for Urban Agriculture Garden at Babena was allocated to 60 beneficiaries which comprises laid-off employee of the Tourism Sector, one of the mostly affected sectors due to current pandemic. The beneficiaries were also provided with different vegetable seeds, cultivation manual and demonstrated basic vegetable cultivation techniques by the DoA staff.
Similarly, three more sites were identified and the land development work is under process at Begana, Chantagang and Kushuchen under Kawang Gewog of Thimphu Dzongkhag. These sites will be handed over to additional 79 identified laid-off employees and similar program will be replicated in other Dzongkhags.
Coinciding with the launch of the Urban Agriculture Garden, JICA Experts of the Integrated Horticulture Promotion Project (IHPP) in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture started field trial on Japanese Sweet Potato variety at Babena. The field trial will assess the suitability of the new crop in the region and its future potential for mass cultivation if found successful. Also, a research trial is being conducted on the crop at Agriculture Research and Development Centre, Bajo, Wangduephodrang.
Submitted by: Tshering Tobgay, ARED,